Which makes the elegy I wrote for him seem a little distasteful.
Let me tell you, just because you see someone in a black
and white photograph doesn’t mean he’s dead.
Even if you find the photograph in an old-looking
box inside your grandmother’s closet,
the person in it standing against an old Ford
with a goat walking past and a farm in the distance,
he may still be alive, in a nursing home being fed
by a large Kentuckian named Tony, but alive
all the same. And it’s the same with people
much older than you. Just because
they were buying cups of coffee
for a nickel and listening to Sarah Vaughan live
at the Blue Note, they’re not always sleeping
through their hangovers under a quiet blade of grass
in God’s Acre. When I bought the Chick Corea album
and saw him in the silvery sheen of the cover art,
smoking an unfiltered cigarette, the smoke rising
over his face like the hem of a silk dress,
I didn’t even blink. He was dead. And I? I was sad,
listening to his fingers, his poor dead fingers, flying
like ghosts over IT DON’T MEAN A THING
IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING, and thinking
this man’s a genius! playing Ellington like a bartender
plays a Singapore Sling, all that maraschino cherry
sweetness, a little clink of ice, and his voice
doing a kind of mumble-moan
over the keys like a man whose been raised
from the dead, looking down at a woman’s knees
after years in the dirt, singing yeaahh!
yeaahh! this is what I’m talkin’about, yeaahh! this good, sweet life!